A Lie

ALieFBeardHi, Francesca here, lurching out of my social media black-out cave (like Fight Club, but just me) to talk about my new show, A Lie. Honestly, it’s a misleading title. The show explores imagination, memory, language and the stories we tell about ourselves. It asks the question: ‘How do we know what is real and what is make believe?’

I haven’t yet been able to answer that question. Fortunately, I did find the answer to these questions:

‘What is the meaning of life?’
‘Who are we?’ and
‘What were we looking for when we opened the fridge?’

my_unicorn_by_toxictwista-d3e2y16So, the idea for ‘A Lie’ first came to me in the lyrics of a David Bowie song, belted out by a tiny unicorn, sliding down a rainbow. I then forgot about it. Plus, after Chinese Whispers, produced by Apples and Snakes, I wanted to explore other forms, having already made, to the best of my ability, the solo show I wanted to make.

Then, because Stacy Makishi was facilitating, I signed up for a live art workshop. I had not at that point had much contact with the live art world. There was genital dancing. In the warm up. It was a dose of salts for the soul. At one point, we had to improvise the show we were making – I wasn’t making a show – didn’t matter. Stacy told me in her Tony Soprano/Hawaiian grandma voice ‘You’re getting old, you’re going to die, Francesca, you have to make another show.’ It was possibly that, possibly a reaction to the full frontal nudity in so many of the other scratch performances, but I improvised a show about persona – a show that was the opposite of revealing oneself to get to the truth.

I then forgot about it until Lisa Mead, the now artistic director of Apples, invited me to take part in the first Inventing Room, a series of two day sessions where artists were paid to play in a room with a practitioner from another art form, with no expectation of outcome. The practitioner was Lee Simpson from Improbable and as part of the two days, we did some work around shamanic process and personal myth. (Lee Simpson mentored me on Chinese Whispers. Most of the ideas I pass off as my own are stolen from him. He’s influenced many things central to my practice – wasting rehearsal time in chat, procrastinating, minimal interest in good performance technique.) Kenny Baraka, Ali Gadema and I came out with ideas for a dozen shows, but the one I knew I could commit to failing at was ‘A Lie’.

Then I forgot about it until I was chatting with Hannah Jane Walker. I met Hannah as a poet and performer when I mentored her as part of Escalator, run by Writers Centre Norwich. That piece became ‘This is Just to Say.’ I then directed her on a show called ‘I Wish I was Lonely’ which she wrote, performed and toured with Chris Thorpe.

Hannah is one of those ‘ahead of the curve’, ‘think outside the box’ kinds of people who despise phrases like ‘blue sky thinking’. We wanted to pilot a new model of how work gets made in the live literature sector. We didn’t want to multi-task as artists/ cultural producers/brand promoters/social networkers. We wanted to experiment with an artistic collective where we could collaborate to make work by taking on roles dependent on need and project.

Lisa Mead agreed to support our GFTA and to mentor Hannah as a producer, along with Rachael Williams from Improbable. Lee Simpson agreed to act as a mentor to me. Hannah introduced me to Rob Watt, who had been directing her and Chris on a show. Rob knows about magic and there is magic in the show. Also, Rob is magic.

So that’s the team. I’ve had script help from Roger Robinson and Chris Thorpe. Piers Faccini, who wrote the music for Chinese Whispers, is writing music. I scratched the show last year with Apples and Snakes at The Bush and at Pulse Festival at New Wolsey Theatre. In July 2015, I performed an hour-long version of the show at Latitude Festival, thanks to Luke Wright and with Hotbed Festival, at the Junction in Cambridge and at Soho Theatre. I’m performing a reworked hour at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival on May 16th.  And I’m sharing ten new minutes next week in Trailers, at Rich Mix on the 26th February.

So – you’re probably asking – is this show for me? Are you into ground-breaking, thought-provoking shows? Are you smart, yet stupid? Bitter but sweet? If you are not interested in the workings of the human brain, this show is probably not for you, but you can come anyway. What else? There are a couple of songs. There is an audacious magic trick. There’s some data mapping exercises, because who doesn’t love to be part of a Venn Diagram? If you are not into Venn Diagrams, this show is not for you and you shouldn’t come, unless prepared for Transformation. The only people who categorically would not get this show are people who have never told a lie. If you’re that person who has never told a lie, you are a liar, so, yeah, you can come. It’s very inclusive, this show. Unlike me, I’m a dreadful snob, but it’s ok because in this show, I play a character called Francesca who is much nicer than how I act ‘in real life.’

Post Script.

Gong Hee Fat Choy. The Year of the Fire Monkey is a good time for those working in art, culture and education. Many of us will be fortunate this year, although gambling, outbursts of temper and excessive drinking may prove unlucky for some. Be careful of your health, particularly in the winter months. (I’m not actually a medical professional, btw.) If you are in a relationship, take care to listen to your partner or arguments could arise. (You’re welcome, lovers.) If you are single, try spending more time with friends, one of them may develop into a romantic interest.

Improbable, Apples and Snakes and Arts Council England are supporting the development of ‘A Lie’.

Read more from Francesca here | Have an amazing time watching snippets of  A Lie here